This Tennessee Student Makes More Sense Than Our Educational Leaders

This speach is simply awesome. If you havent heard it yet, you need to. I have my doubts our CCSS/high stakes testing generation will produce leaders like this student will no doubt be.

Diane Ravitch's blog

Please take five minutes and watch this wonderful student in Tennessee give an impassioned speech about how current “reform” policies are ruining education.

He blasts the Common Core because of its emphasis on standardization.

He expresses his respect for teachers. He says “Standards-based education Is ruining the way we teach and learn.”

He says bluntly “Why don’t we just manufacture robots instead of students?”

He says, “The task of teaching is never quantifiable.”

He says twice, for emphasis: “If everything I have learned in high school is a measurable objective, I haven’t learned anything.”

I am once again convinced that this younger generation, raised under the harsh. soulless NCLB regime, rejects standardization. They refuse to be mechanized. They are rebels against the federal effort to stamp out their individuality. They will save us from the adults who hope to shape and silence them. They may well be our greatest generation.

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2 thoughts on “This Tennessee Student Makes More Sense Than Our Educational Leaders

  1. What if We Are Asking the Wrong Question about Public Education in America?

    There is a question at the center of discussions about educational reform: “Why do children fail?” or, more often, “Who is to blame for the failure of education in America?”

    We talk about poverty, racial discrimination and segregation, deteriorating neighborhoods; bad schools, teachers and unions; charter schools and vouchers; privatization; testing; and, holding teachers and schools accountable.

    What if our questions are the wrong questions?

    Consider a different question.

    “Why do children succeed in school?” Or, better yet, “What do successful students have in common?”

    We will discover that it is not affluence. There are many successful students who are affluent and there are also poor children who excel. Conversely, there are affluent students who fail as badly as some of their poorer classmates.

    It is not race, because the list of excellent students includes students with white skins and black and every color in between.

    It is not bad schools and bad teachers, because excellent students can be found in both our best and worst schools.

    The one characteristic that most links our best students, wherever we find them, is that they are supported by parent(s) who are determined that their children will get the best possible education and who consider themselves to be partners, sharing responsibility with teachers and principals.

    The most common characteristic of children who fail is that they are not supported by parents who are determined, committed, and who accept responsibility as a partner in the educational process.

    These new questions and their answers should change the way we think about education.

    Education is in crisis because of a burgeoning population of mothers and fathers who live under a stifling blanket of hopelessness and powerlessness. These men and women are effectively disenfranchised and no longer believe in the American Dream for themselves or for their children. They do not stress the importance of education to their children; they make little if any effort to prepare their children for learning; and, they view their children’s teachers and principals as adversaries. Many have lost control over their children and are no longer the guiding influence in the daily lives of their sons and daughters.

    Because the quality of the education our children receive will determine the future of the U.S. in the Twenty-first Century, we face two challenges:

    1. We must utilize every resource at our disposal to pull parents into the process as fully participating partners in the education of their kids. It is the absence of this partnership that results in the lowest level of motivation to learn on the part American children in generations and this is a reality that must be altered at all cost.
    2. We must admit that our current educational process is poorly structured to get the results we seek. We must create a reality in which children are given time to master their subjects before they are expected to move on. After all, we do not expect that they all will have achieved the same things by the end of twelve years of school. What we need is that they will have learned as much as they are able and that they can apply what they have learned when they enter the next stage of their lives, whatever that may be.

    The first challenge demands that we strive to change the culture of American society to one in which the American dream is real and achievable, if not for every man and woman, then at least for their children. It will require that we quit bickering and come together as a unified force to achieve a common objective.

    There can be no excuses for failing to achieve the second challenge because the educational leaders in each of our fifty states has the authority to change, by decree, the educational process in their state.

    If we continue down the same path, we place our entire future as a society in jeopardy.
    Mel Hawkins
    Author of:
    Reinventing Education, Hope, and the American Dream: The Challenge of Twenty-First Century America, and
    THE LEADer, a blog (Thinking Exponentially: Leadership, Education, and the American Dream

    What if We Are Asking the Wrong Question about Public Education in America?

    When we talk about public education and the challenges it faces and when we talk about reform initiatives there is a question at the center of those discussions. That question is: Why do children fail? Or, “What are the characteristics of the children who perform poorly in school?” Or, more often, “Who is to blame for the failure of education in America?”
    We then talk about poverty, racial discrimination and segregation, deteriorating urban and rural communities: and, we talk about bad schools and bad teachers, teachers unions, about giving people choices with charter schools and vouchers; about Common Core; about holding teachers and schools accountable and standardized competency examinations. In the last couple of decades we have begun talking about the privatization of education and other related issues having to do with taking education from the control of communities and making it more accountable much like businesses are held accountable.
    What if “Why do children fail and who is to blame?” are the wrong questions? Maybe we are looking at the problems of education from the wrong perspective.
    Returning to the challenges of education in America, consider a different question, for just a moment.
    “Why do children succeed in school?” Or, more specifically, “what do successful students have in common and what can we learn from those common characteristics?”
    We will likely discover that it is not affluence because, while there are many successful students who are affluent there are also poor children who excel academically. Conversely, there are affluent students who fail as badly as some of their economically disadvantaged classmates.
    We will discover that it is not race, because the list of the academically excellent includes white children, and black children, and children with skins that span all of the hues and colors in between.
    We will learn that it is not fractured families because there are children who excel in school who live in single-parent homes or with families that are otherwise distressed just as there are children from intact families who fail, miserably.
    We will learn that it is not bad neighborhoods because there are children from the most dreadful surroundings who somehow perform well in school just as there are children at the other end of the performance continuum who live in the best neighborhoods in America.
    We will also discover that it is not bad schools populated by bad teachers, because students from both ends of the performance continuum can be found in our best and in our worst performing schools.
    The one single characteristic that most links our best students, wherever we find them, is that they are supported by parent(s) or guardian(s) who are determined that their children will get the best possible education and who consider themselves to be partners, sharing responsibility with teachers and principals for the education of their children.
    Now, flip the question around and ask, what are the common characteristics of children who are failing in school? If we are honest with ourselves we will discover that the single most common characteristic of children who struggle academically is that they are not supported by parents who are determined that their children will receive a good education. Many parents of struggling children might vocalize that education is important but they do none of things that determined parents do. They do not talk constantly about the importance of education. They do not make certain that their child has resources that will help them be successful in school. They do not ask, routinely, “How was school today?” nor do they ask to see homework or tests and other papers sent home by their child’s teacher. They do not call and talk to their child’s teacher to see how their son or daughter is doing or to ask what they can do to help and support the child? They do not go to parent/teacher conferences or back-to-school night. Whatever they might be vocalizing their actions provide no evidence that a real commitment exists or that the parent recognizes and accepts responsibility as a partner in the educational process.
    Think for a moment, about how the answers to this new set of questions changes, profoundly, everything we think we know about the educational process.
    The problem with education in America is that we have a burgeoning population of American mothers and fathers who live under a stifling blanket of hopelessness and powerlessness. These men and women are effectively disenfranchised and no longer believe in the American Dream for themselves or for their children. As a result, they do not stress the importance of education to their children and they make little if any effort to prepare their children for learning; they offer no support to the educators of their children and, in fact, view their children’s teachers and principals as adversaries. Many of these parents have lost control over their children and can no longer claim status as the guiding influence in the daily lives of their sons and daughters.
    Because the quality of the education our children receive will determine whether or not the U.S. can maintain any semblance of a competitive advantage as we proceed through the balance of the Twenty-first Century, we are facing two challenges:
    1. The first is that we must utilize every resource at our disposal to pull parents into the process as fully participating partners in the education of their sons and daughters. It is the absence of this partnership that results in the lowest level of motivation to learn on the part American children in generations and this is a reality that must be altered at all cost.
    2. The second is that we must be willing to admit that our current educational process is poorly structured to get the results we so desperately need to achieve. It is a system that sets the overwhelming majority of students up for failure and humiliation simply because it starts all children out on the same academic path, regardless of the cavernous disparity in the preparation they bring to their first day of school, and it judges their performance against that of their classmates. We must create a reality in which children are given sufficient time to master their subjects before they are permitted to move on because we have no illusions that they all will have achieved the same things by the end of twelve years of formal education. We do not need them to achieve the same things. What we need is that they will have learned as much as they are able to learn and that they will be able to apply what they have learned when they enter the next stage of their lives, whatever that may be.

    The first challenge is formidable because it demands that we strive to change the culture of American society to one in which the American dream is real and achievable, if not for every man and woman in the nation, at least for their children. It will require that we quit bickering and, instead, come together to achieve a common objective.
    The second challenge offers no excuses for failure because the educational leaders in each of our fifty states has the authority to change, by decree, the educational process in their state.
    If we continue down the same path, we place our entire future as a society in jeopardy.
    Mel Hawkins
    Author of:
    Reinventing Education, Hope, and the American Dream: The Challenge of Twenty-First Century America, and
    THE LEADer, a blog (Thinking Exponentially: Leadership, Education, and the American Dream

    1. Hi Mel,

      I see you copied one of your own recent blog posts and plugged a book you are trying to publish in response to this posting of mine without addrssing the specific points in the article or the video referred to in my reblog.  🙂

      I am curious about your opinion on this piece and what this student has to say.  Do you see that problems wrought by our current trajectory of placing blame and labeling and punishing “failure” rather than working collaboratively to address the conditions that result in lowever achievement levels for poor children.  Certainly we can find evidence of failure in affluent families, and evidence of success in poor families.  However on the balance you will find that the more affluent do substantially better on the whole than our poorer members of society.  I would suspect in many of the cases where you find poor performing affluent children you will find undiagnosed medical/mental conditions, abuse or trauma, drug abuse or even antipathy towards education perhaps as a direct result of their greater resources and lack of work ethic of need to succeed to survive.

      Some poorer families do support their children more, or have grandparents, uncles, etc that can lend a hand, guidance, funding, exposure to more learnign opportunties, etc.  The way we determine poverty is largely self-reported based on parents applying for finanical support such as food stamps or the free/reduced lunch program.  This is not an absolute metric, nor does it factor in wealth (just income.)  A student may be classifed as “poor” in high school after a parent loses a job, thus be classifed as poor, but may very well have received excellent support and opportunities throughout their more formative years.  Conversely you can have a student raised in poverty, but refuses to accept free lunches in high school due to stimatization.  This is becoming less of an issue with prepaid lunch systems fortunately.  You may also have parents that finally achieve higher paying jobs as their students age thus no longer qualifying them for foodstamps, free lunch, or the poverty indicator.  Some of the examples of high performing impoverished students and low performing “wealthy” students (which really just means they are not classifed as poor, not that they are not poor) you are seeing may include a lot of statistical “noise.”  The poverty designation is imprecise, not an absolute indicator of performance, not longitudinally factored in any study I have seen, but it is a very significant factor/predictor of performance.  This holds true across countries, cultures, races and history. 

      I am not saying this is an excuse, but it is a significant factor, perhaps the most significant we can currently track with any level of accuracy and consistency.  (Physical/sexual abuse over a prolonged period might be more significant but is not really trackable or knowable, and disabilities can be highly predictive and we recognize this as a society and we do currently devote more resources to our disabled students.)

      Most states also devote slightly more resources to our poor children, just as we do our disabled populations, but the resources are not sufficient or the sole determining factor needed to improve student performance, at least not the way they are allocated/spent.

      I do not blame children for failing, that is not a question I ask.  I also do nor ask who is to blame for the failure, because I disagree witht he sentiment that you seem to conceed and imply, that our entire system is an abject failure. “We talk about poverty, racial discrimination and segregation, deteriorating neighborhoods; bad schools, teachers and unions; charter schools and vouchers; privatization; testing; and, holding teachers and schools accountable. > >What if our questions are the wrong questions? ” Technically those are not questions. . . But many of those may be factors to one degree or another.  Some of those are actually proposed solutions, not part of questions at all actually. . .   I agree teamwork and coorperation/collaboration are better ways forward.  High Stakes testing, defining failing schools (or parents as you are adding to the list) is not the answer.  Shipping those students to other schools or privatizing them outside the public sphere is a terrible long term strategy, and will only serve to increase the inequity and disconnect between parents, students, schools and communities.  Our public, even ones without children or, grandchildren in schools, need to be engaged if we want our schools and futures of our students to be brighter and  our society to be enriched by their contributions.  I disgree with the current trendy obsession that our students must all be STEM oriented to succeed.  Our arts, artistisans and how we treat the least among us will ultimately define how successful we were as a society and people.  Right now I see CCSS, STEM, trivialization of poverty, laserlike focused career education introduced in out earliest grade levels and privatization leading the charge toward a steep decline in our culture, people and future. 

      I hope you will come to be a part of the solution to solve our problems rather than assign blame or create new ones.  I see some of your post/comment as a shift in the right direction. 

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